Location: Star's End Monastery
Date: Winter, 1332 Avard
An invaluable tapestry found hanging in the Tomb of the Autumn Lord held a map with many places and names laboriously stitched into it. The monks at the Star's End had spent close to a month analyzing the tapestry, and had made a breakthrough. One of the place names at first translated as 'place of rest' in the ancient Ionian language – of which perhaps only a thousand words had survived. The initial thought was that 'place of rest' mean an inn or hostel, but a revised translation indicated it might be more along the lines of baths or a spa.
While the translations were taking place, a goliath named Kragma arrived from Kashin. He sought information about the long dead god Tromth – and in exchange, offered his services for a very modest fee. Kragma carried a shield as large as most men were tall, and was large enough and armored enough to give even Lo-Kan a run for his money.
Arriving not long after was a young man named Rip, a member of the Order of Saint Malkem. The order was dedicated to service, not for profit, but because they genuinely wished to serve. They were under a geas to protect the privacy of those they served, and as such, they were often sought out by the Church of Samis and her priests.
The Church of Samis, dedicated as it was to more than just languages, also helped the occasional thief. In this case, a young gnome named Nyssa. Nyssa and her kind were kept under observation by the God of Destinies Brigain, and few refused a request from his priests. The churches found an out-of-the-way spot for Nyssa to stay relatively hidden, and sent her (at great exasperation to the monks) to the Star's End Monastery.
Working with whom was at hand, Brother Cadwhol sent all three with Ethana to investigate the 'place of rest'. Given the War of the Undead's collective impact on the psyche, the danger that it could be more than a spa or baths was not lost on anyone.
After four days of travel through snowy conditions, the team arrived at the relative place on the map, thanks to Kragma's steady guidance with the map. A hot spring kept the air humid and warm within a hundred paces, and ruins and large trees kept vigilance nearby. Brambles and blackberries had grown over the entrance to a set of doors emplaced in a low rise. That the snow was melted there year round meant the animals and insects were very active around the springs. A nearby tree had fallen into the waters, and occasionally those waters belched up a sulfurous smell.
Brother Cadwhol had sent along a torturin to serve as a guide. The small book contained a hundred or so words in the Ionian language, as well as dwarven and Karatikan equivalents. Using the book, Ethana was able to determine that a moss-covered mass of stone near the waters held the symbols for 'permanent' and 'spirit rest' or something equivalent.
As Kragma and Rip investigated the brambles, Nyssa used a spell to make it sound like ghosts and skittering things were on the other side of the double doors, ready to come out. It creeped the two out, and she lost it, laughing at them. Only, when she stopped the spell, the sound continued.
Rip intoned a prayer to his gods, and he received a blinding headache in return. He arranged nearby rocks into the image of Curiss, God of the Dead, as a means of protection. The forest nearby went silent, and Rip got the feeling they were not alone, by any means.
The skittering behind the stone doors continued, and was joined by an immense crack as something tried to break its way out. The team gave some thought to fleeing, but Kragma could not let undead, if they were such, run rampant over the country side. Nor could Rip leave the undead without bringing the blessing of Arpelos to bear against them. Arpelos was a deity that hated the undead, and smote them whenever possible. Curiss, as well, felt that the undead were an abomination – not true dead, as they should be.
Using rocks Rip arranged as an anchor point, with the hot water of the spring to one side, they arrayed for battle. Ethana and her armored boar took the front. Rip and his omsomivae mount took the rear. Kragma's snowfell mount (big enough even for him) took the left flank, and Kragma himself took the right flank and vanguard. Nyssa kept near Rip, ready for anything.
When the stone door broke in half, the undead poured forth in great numbers. Score upon score of them rushed forward, eager to snuff out the light of living things. And behind the first two score of undead skeletons strode a skeleton the size of a giant. It was the remains of a cyclops, and it could easily reach over the first ranks of skeletons to smash at shield of Kragma and the runed armor of Ethana.
The skeletons attacked where they could, and where other skeletons were in the way, they flowed around the team to surround them, skeletons deep. As the last of the scores of skeletons rushed out through the broken door, a skeleton still wearing tattered black silk robes emerged. Each time it would raise its hands above its head, darkness and necrosis would follow, as it blasted at Kragma and Ethana with an almost palpable hatred.
The team shrugged battled against the myriad skeletons, and redoubled their efforts against the cyclops' bones. It fell with a thunderous clap, and through the gap it made rushed Kragma and Ethana to the black-robed evil.
Moments later, there was only a mop up of the occasional skeleton or twitching body part. The healing powers of Ethana and Rip, coupled with the armor of Kragma and the giant boar Aden, with Nyssa and the giant snowfell Snocap's teeth, and one well-timed acid strike from the omsomivae mount of Rip, had finished off the horde.
Inside the crypt, only scattered bones and ancient stone remained.
DM's Notes: After the prior episode's near death experiences, Ross and Paul seemed to realize that there does need to be a balance in a party's build. Three strikers and no healer is a great damage dealer – but when the damage is dealt back, there's a problem. This time, they opted for the classic 'Fighter + Cleric' combo. Sommer didn't play her usual runepriest (healer) last week, as she was in Boston, and I don't think the guys quite clicked that she would be back at the table as soon as she could with another healer. This led to some serious healing capabilities and damage reduction, a tank that could take considerable damage, and a striker that could pick and choose. I saw Paul ready to shank Ross's character for kill-stealing, twice, so it'll be entertaining to see how they work it out. I'm curious to see which character Sommer goes with next time, if Ross continues to play his cleric.
Reference: Campaign IX